Junior Arena Lewis was a three-time state champion in high school and a three-time national qualifier in college in cross country and track. To add to her list of accomplishments, she is now an All-American.
On Saturday, the Hillsdale women’s cross country team traveled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the NCAA Division II National Championships. It takes placing in the top 40 to earn the All-American status, and Lewis did just that, finishing in 37th out of 264 runners.
“Of course I would’ve rather done better, but All-American is All-American,” Lewis said. “People keep telling me no one is going to remember if you were 37th or third. I’m just super grateful. My parents were there and all the freshman came and Jack was there. It was really cool to have all these people I love so much be there.”
In the 2018 cross country season earned the G‑MAC cross country Athlete of the Week award two times. She finished third in the conference, fifth in the Midwest region and 37th in the nation. She earned personal best times in both the 5k and 6k races.
Perhaps one of the most important things about her season, however, was the strength she was able to finish with. For the past two years, she had never finished a cross country season fully healthy.
“I would usually get injured for a couple of weeks in October,” she said. “This year I’ve been training hard since May.”
Assistant coach R.P. White called this a “really key season” for Arena.
“She trained at a really high level and competed at a really high level,” White said. “She didn’t miss any meets, other than over fall break to go home, because of injury or illness. She was able to stay really healthy. That’ll be key for her moving forward.”
Lewis’ teammates were proud and supportive of her success. Her training partner this season, sophomore Maryssa Depies, jokingly said she’d like to take some of the credit for Arena’s All-American title.
White said he was pleased with Lewis’ performance on Saturday as well.
“At nationals she did exactly what we talked about. She executed her race plan and got in good position,” he said. “She competed really hard and held on and was able to be All-American.”
As she looks ahead to the quickly-approaching indoor track season, Lewis said her goals include returning to the national meet.
“I want to be All-American in the 5k and why not the 3k?” Lewis said. “I’d like to hit some pretty quick times.”
Quickness isn’t entirely foreign to this distance runner. In high school Lewis ran on her school’s 200 meter relay many times, along with the 200 meter dash. She even ran the 100 meter dash once.
“We had a small team,” Lewis said. “I actually ran the 200 kind of a lot. I ran it at the District meet and I scored. I anchored the 4x200 so I was with all the fast girls in my baggy shorts.”
She will be traveling with the Chargers to Grand Valley State University this Friday to compete in the Holiday Open.